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Editorial: PM Suga’s responses to questions in Japan’s Diet show he fears discussion

Questioning of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga by Japan’s political party leaders began in a plenary session of the Diet on Oct. 28 for the first time since the formation of his Cabinet in September.

 

Unfortunately, the prime minister merely repeated his previous statements, declining to elaborate on any point. Under such circumstances, it is not possible to hold proper discussions in the Diet.

 

The way the prime minister spoke in the Diet even gives rise to suspicions that he fears discussion. A typical example of this can be seen in relation to Suga’s refusal to appoint six scholars nominated to the Science Council of Japan. During his policy speech, he did not refer to this issue at all. It is only natural that Yukio Edano, leader of the opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, and the party’s policy chief, Kenta Izumi, pressed Suga on this issue.

 

In response, the prime minister said he did not act illegally in his refusal to appoint the six, and that he had no intention of retracting the rejections. Instead, he reiterated that there was a need to review the Science Council of Japan as an organization.

 

Yet when it came to the crux of the issue — why he refused to appoint the six scholars — he repeatedly stated that he would refrain from answering as it was a personnel issue.

 

The six scholars had previously expressed their opposition to or reservations about government policy. Some say the reason that the prime minister did not appoint the six to the council was that he wanted to eliminate dissenting opinions and use the body for the government’s purposes. These suspicions form the nucleus of the issue. Until the prime minister responds to this, distrust will only accumulate.

 

It is further incomprehensible that Suga again declined to reopen an investigation into the Moritomo Gakuen and Kake Educational Institution favoritism scandals.

 

In his policy speech, Suga spoke about the kind of society he would like to achieve, saying, “First you try doing things yourself. Then families and local areas help each other. Then after that, the government will protect people with its safety net.” This emerged as a theme of his statements in the Diet.

 

Edano and Izumi, however, pointed out that even if the government wants to make social support cuts by having people help themselves, the country is facing a tough situation in which that kind of self-reliance is impossible for increasing numbers of people, and they criticized the fact that public assistance came last on Suga’s list.

 

This is an issue that should be debated in further depth, but here too, the prime minister merely retraced his policy speech.

 

From the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), acting secretary-general Seiko Noda inquired about the delay of the advancement of women in Japanese society, among other questions.

 

This was a line of inquiry that showed a tendency toward change within the LDP. But the prime minister sidestepped even pressing social issues, such as allowing married couples to have different surnames, saying he would “consider it while paying attention to discussion in the Diet.” It is the prime minster’s own thoughts that we need to hear in this situation.

 

Suga has requested constructive discussion from the opposition parties, but first he should admonish himself.

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